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Dry stone – Construction tools, techniques and manuals

Dry stone – Construction tools, techniques and manuals

What is the dry stone technique?

Dry Stone technique refers to the process of building stone constructions by conjoining them without the use of any material for their consolidation, such as mortar or mortar.

The dry stone technique, which is a ancient tradition, was one of the first human approaches to stone construction. Mainly, its structures are found in rural areas and steep terrain, either in populated spaces, or in unpopulated spaces.

It’s stability is due to a combination of careful selection and installation of the stones. It is vital that the stonemason study in depth the pairing and balance of each piece by combining stones of different sizes. It is through this process that greater stability, functionality and aesthetics is achieved.

In 2018, this technique was declared a Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a candidacy in which countries such as Greece, Cyprus, France and Italy, among others, participated to respect and celebrate this method, especially in regards to it’s environmentally friendly and sustainable practice cosidering it uses local materials.

Different dry stone techniques

When working with dry Stone, there are four main ways of placing the pieces:

  • Ordinary placement: This technique does not follow any type of specific order.
  • Laying on gravel: In this technique, stones are applied into mortar joints, which allows  larger stones to be fitted.
  • Laying by rows: With this technique the stones are laid in a linear fashion, giving the impression that a regular row is being created.
  • Orderly and oblique placement: apart from being arranged in rows, the stones are placed obliquely.

There are all types of stones, even if they are from the same pile. They are all useful, even the brittle ones. Of course, you have to know how to recognize them and correctly select them.  This traditional practice is defined by the ability to combine and construct the stones without the use of mortar to bind them

Recommendations for working with dry stone

These are recommendations for correctly using this technique:

  • Look for flat surfaces which allow the stones to be combined without risk of collapsing from instability.
  • Adjust the stones so each fit ensures maximum stability.
  • Fill in all the gaps. This is done by using formless stones that are interspersed to fill any crevices in the structure.
  • Determine the thickness of each row by considering it’s parameter.
  • Structural balance is achieved not by the amount of large strones, but the distribution of small and medium stones throughout the structure.
  • Small wedges should be used only as a last resort, specifically, to prevent the stones from wobbling.

Dry stone tools at Rock & Tools

At Rock & Tools we specialize in dry stone and we offer all kinds of services, guidance and tools to anyone who wants to specialize  or simply experiment with this technique.


In this photo we would find the following tools, all of them available on our website:

a. Concave Head Mallet

This hammer has a special shape, the end is curved and slightly concaved, allowing the two protruding edges to square the stones or reduce their dimensions

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b. Dry stone point hammer

It is similar to a pickaxe, however the blunt end allows for squaring to avoid builging. It is the basic tool of hard stone works.

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c. Lump hammer 

These hammers are used to hit different tools, such as pointers, scarps and reamers (moles). Splitting Wedges are made of steel with bevoled edges and a wooden handle.  

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d. Lump hammer sharp edges 

The hammer with sharp edges can be used both as a lump hammer and to square the stone with the edges of the hammer. It is made of hardened steel.

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e. Chisel

Used to smooth and clean the Surface of the stones.

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f. Pointer

They are all composed of a piece of tempered iron with a central hole where the wooden handle is placed. One part has a square and flat section (which can be used as a hammer to hit) and the other part ends in a point.

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g. Mace dry stone edge

One head in hammer, the other in shear perpendicular to the handle. An ideal tool to use on light stones.

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Other tools we want to highlight

Other options that you will find in our catalog are books that talk about the techniques to use with dry stone and other quality tools.

Our Widia tool set, ideal for dry stone professionals and teachers.This set includes:

  • 1 Widia Scafiler 40mm
  • 1 Widia Pointer
  • 1 Escarpment Widia 30 mm
  • 1 Steel Mace with sharp edges
  • 1 Case

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  • Different books in which to know the dry stone in depth.

These books that feature beautiful photographs, allows you to discover the world of dry Stone landscapes that were built by anonymous architectures that have found a new role of relevency.

Dry stone specialists who offer passionate knowledge and share their experiences.

 A practical chapter details the construction of a wall in images and offers everyone, private or professional, the instruction of building or restoring works in dry stone.

In this article we highlight three books:

1. The dry stone

2. Dry stone construction

3. Stone walls

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Solid one-piece shims are often used in cracks or cuts made with the grinder.

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The lever is mainly used to move large stones. The levers have a sharp point on one side and a flat nail-shaped tip on the other.

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Splitting wedges, also called expanders or expanders, are used to split larger stones into two parts.Captura de pantalla 2022 05 31 a las 13.01.08

All the tools can be consulted on our website. And if you need a specific one that you cannot find in our catalogue, you can contact us and we will locate it for you.

And, in addition,  You can find tutorials for our tools on our youtube channel. For example, the wedges, the escafilador or the pointer.

Dry stone today

Due to it’s agricultural, architectural and cultural origens dry stone is  still a current technique that is present in the following:

  • Construction of roads: These roads offer a distinct and unqiue aesthetic where tourists can marvel and appreciate the charm of local área.
  • Dams: numerous small mountain dams are lined with dry stone because they are effective in providing resistance to flowing wáter.
  • The anti-avalanches: in the mountains a construction technique has been developed using only local material, to combat the natural phenomena of rockfall or snow avalanches. These walls are both used for protective measures and as guiding routes for hiking trails.
  • For civil safety: international researchers have attested to the value of dry stone terraces in water management in arid zones and the consideration of risks such as landslides, erosion, runoff, floods and fires.
  • For the terroir: The beauty of the agricultural landscape enhances the reputation of its productions, its tourist attraction and its ability to remain alive. It contributes to the visual identity of it’s local surroundings, in which tourists can appreciate the ancient tradition which in turn keeps it alive and relevant

Dry stone constructions in the world

Dry stone is a technique that is present all over the world. Some where only the structures of the past remain and others where the tradition is still practiced today.

In the region of Cumbria, located in the northwest of England, there are the forty lakes of the Lake District National Park that contain peaks that rise up to 90 meters in height and where dry stone construction elements are found, formed by bare rocks, granite balls scattered in the bed of rivers or recovered for dry construction. All this will be transformed into paved bridges, sheepfolds or fences.


In the Japanese city of Nara, located in the Kansai region, there is a hill with an important Buddhist sanctuary built in the 8th century and with it’s Stone wall dating back to the same century.


On the Vaucluse plateau, France, we find the Plague Wall, an unusual and mighty wall built with the dry stone technique that crosses the Vaucluse mountains for 27km.

Dry stone constructions in Spain

The dry stone technique plays a major role in our landscapes, thus providing a seal of quality to our territory.

In Enguera (Valencia), there are several cuckoos or huts, all of them made with the aforementioned dry stone technique. It is a construction so well known in Valencia that there is even a famous Enguera cuckoo route.


In Menorca there also f a great variety of constructions made with dry stone, many of which have become well known. Such is the prominence that this technique takes on the island, that it is estimated that more than 11,000 kilometers have been built on it.


In Galicia, specifically in the town of O rosal, there are is a well-known route  the Molinos del Folón and del Picón, which covers a total of 60 mills located in a cascade and built in the 18th century, all of them with the dry stone technique. This route has been declared by the Junta de Galicia as an Asset of Cultural Interest.


At Rock & Tools we can help you work with dry stone

At Rock & Tools specialize in this technique, so if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us for advice. We have a wide catalog of tools so that you can achieve a perfect result in your works.

And one last piece of advice for all stone artists: read our blog. You can also join our community and upload your works to our Art Space so that it becomes a meeting point for professionals! We encourage you to join our social networks and follow our latest posts.

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